Education Opinion

What Three Things Bother You Most about the Common Core?

By Nancy Flanagan — February 09, 2013 1 min read
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Question of the Day, from Jean Schutt-McTavish, a principal in New York who is briefing a political candidate on education issues:

What are your top three criticisms of the Common Core?

Schutt-McTavish has gotten some pretty amazing responses, including this one--Won’t Get Fooled Again-- from my Michigan buddy and rational math teacher extraordinaire, Michael Goldenberg. Mike doesn’t hold back:

It is another doomed attempt to bring about meaningful change through a top-down, punitive system that will be badly misunderstood by many - even if everything in it were good, which is far from the case - and resented by those who for good reasons or bad view it as a wrong-headed path. Much research indicates that such reforms are fated to fail badly because few at the ground level were given a real voice in the process. Despite the propaganda that this is a state-led reform effort, it is in fact a federal one, supported primarily by corporate interests who are playing this opportunity for all it's worth - new textbooks, new assessments, and new professional development all lining the pockets of the publishers and testing companies. Whether it succeeds or fails matters not - they will profit greatly on this and will be ready to profit further when the next wave of change comes, innocently declaring that not they, but "the states" were the ones who brought this about.

You have a love a guy who quotes The Who as wisdom about curriculum.

My thoughts?

• The standards really are de facto national standards---Susan Ohanian calls them the Common Core State (sic) Standards--and we got them through some savvy lets-make-policy sleight of hand, essentially bribing states via the competitive, Race to the Top grant process to adopt them.

• The standards were not written by groups of practicing K-12 teachers, for schools, districts and classrooms of real people. They were written by people with commercial interests: generating work, publishing materials, presenting workshops, controlling practice.

• The standards in and of themselves are not nearly as great a danger as the tests that will accompany them, the data generated from those tests and how it will be used, and the Gates-Pearson online curricula (now under development) aligned with the standards. With the curriculum rollout, the trifecta will be complete: National everything, locked in concrete. And it will all be done through crafty circumventing of federal regulations that prohibit a national curriculum, which is terrible policy-making.

Now--I do know teachers who have found things to like in the Common Core standards. And I do respect the rock/hard place in which practicing educators find themselves. The days are long gone when teachers could teach whatever they wanted, when they wanted, and a textbook adoption was how most “curriculum” was organized. That’s not a bad thing.

Still--What are your three most salient ideas about the Common Core? Are they criticisms? Can you put them into shovel-ready bullet points, for the limited attention span of your average legislator?

The opinions expressed in Teacher in a Strange Land are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.